Columbia State Awarded SERS Grant for Faculty Professional Development

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Columbia State Community College received a Tennessee Board of Regents Student Engagement, Retention and Success grant that will provide enrichment programs for adjunct faculty to better serve students.

“We’re always working to improve what goes on in the classroom, whether it’s on ground or online, and this helps us take a giant step forward,” said Marla Cartwright, Columbia State director of academic engagement and innovation. ““Thanks to support from our Columbia State President Dr. Janet Smith and Patrick McElhiney from our development and grants office, we were able to secure grant funds in the amount of $21,000.”

Cartwright, a Columbia State graduate, has worked in higher education for more than 30 years. Noticing a gap in adjunct and underrepresented minority faculty’s enrichment opportunities, she applied for the SERS grant in order to ensure these groups receive the community and resources needed to continue to bring students the best classroom experience, whether in-person or online.

“This is a way to add a layer of support for these faculty members,” Cartwright said. “Our adjunct faculty are a little more restricted in terms of coming to campus.”

Adjunct faculty members typically do not have the scheduling flexibility to attend the same training opportunities that full-time faculty receive. Instead, their unique needs dictate that flexible, accommodating options are available.

The grant’s purpose is to provide funding for innovative and effective programs or projects for adjunct and underrepresented faculty that will, in turn, increase success rates and improve educational outcomes. The focus group pilot program of the grant project is projected to benefit both underserved adjunct and underrepresented minority faculty members.

The pilot program would implement a “Community of Practice” (CoP) by utilizing the guidance provided in the “Teaching and Learning Toolkit: A Research-Based Guide to Building a Culture of Teaching & Learning Excellence” from Achieving the Dream. By building a community of practice for faculty members to share teaching strategies in a welcoming and inclusive environment, both faculty and students can benefit from an increased focused on a supportive classroom environment.

“It’s a recursive process,” Cartwright said. “Our faculty are lifelong students, just like we hope our students will be lifelong learners.”

The grant program extends through June 2023, with the hope of continuing these efforts in the following fiscal year.